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Building Character: Encouraging Problem Solving

My focus this school year will be building character with my students. The recent tragic events that have happened in our country have made me even more certain that building character and working on problem solving skills in my classroom are more important than ever. 

Building Character in students by encouraging problem solving and reading mentor texts about how to treat others.

As I reflected on last year's students and class, I realize that I should have been more explicit in teaching and modeling how to solve problems between students. I have already been planning for next school year, and I will be heavily focusing on building our classroom's community. One of my main focuses at the beginning of the year will be teaching my students how to solve conflicts between each other.

Building Character in students by encouraging problem solving and reading mentor texts about how to treat others.

We will be doing a lot of modeling and role playing  how we can solve the problems that might come up in the classroom. Some of the problems that came up often in last year's class were:

*He's talking too loud!

*He's too close to me!

*He's cutting in line!

*He's not my friend!

And yes, I had a class of boys last year! This year will be discussing these issues, and I will be giving my students specific strategies that they can use to solve these problems themselves (and not coming to me for every little thing!). 

In one of my teacher Facebook groups (collaborating and talking to other teachers is my favorite) another teacher suggested a Solution Wheel. What a brilliant idea! I made one for my classroom, because I loved the concept.

Help manage student behavior and encourage problem solving by providing students a solution wheel.

You can download one for your classroom by clicking the picture above.

We will spend time discussing the difference between small problems and big problems. I also loved the suggestion from the other teacher that she encouraged her students to try 3 solutions before coming to the teacher for help.

I absolutely love using mentor texts with my students. Mentor texts are so useful for so many things, and I have spent my summer researching and collecting high quality mentor texts for my classroom. Here are some of the mentor texts I will be reading to my students as we discuss problem solving and handling conflicts.

Building Character in students by encouraging problem solving and reading mentor texts about how to treat others.

One by Kathryn Otoshi
The Juice Box Bully by Bob Sornson and Maria Dismondy
The Selfish Crocodile by Faustin Charles and Michael Terry

If you are interested in more mentor texts, I have created a new Instagram page where I will be focusing only on mentor texts. You can follow me at @extraspecialbooks or use #extraspecialbooks if you have some great mentor texts that you would like reposted.

Find mentor texts to use in your classroom

If you're interested in joining the Facebook group I mentioned earlier, click the picture below.

Do you have any great strategies for teaching problem solving in your classroom?



Hi everyone! It's that fun part of summer where we're busy having BBQs with all of our friends. I don't know about you, but this is one of my favorite parts of the summer. With July 4th coming up, I've already started thinking about what kind of desserts I'll be making. 

I'm teaming up with my blogger friends, CourtneyNicole, and Tonya to bring you some meal ideas!

So here are some of my favorite dessert recipes that are a total hit with my own kids and anyone else who has sampled this deliciousness!

Oh my! This is absolute deliciousness! If you've never tried a Pioneer Woman recipe, you definitely should. Her recipes are easy to make, because she gives you step-by-step photograph instructions. You seriously cannot mess up one of her recipes. 
Eclair Cake by Paula Deen

If you're looking for an easy prep recipe that you can make the day before (or even morning before), this Eclair Cake is the perfect dessert. Actually, this dessert is so simple to make that my 10-year-old daughter has taken over as the Eclair Cake maker in my house. Not only is this a chocolatey delight, it's also an ideal dessert on a hot day since it's kept cold. 

A July 4th BBQ requires some kind of red, white, and blue dessert. These Strawberry Shortcake Kabobs will definitely be a winner with your guests. I like to add blueberries to mine to help keep with the theme. 

We'd love for you to link up with some of your favorite June meals and recipes that you are making this summer!


A Journey Into Flexible Seating

Hi everyone! I'm sure by now you have read many posts and seen many Instagram photos about flexible seating. This past school year, I really started thinking about how flexible seating would work in my classroom and if flexible seating was really even possible.

Flexible Seating in a First Grade Classroom

I had been reading some of the great blog posts out there, such as this one from Kayla at Top Dog Teaching {here} and even a blog post from Kayla's principal {here}. Lucky Little Learners {here} has a great FAQ about how flexible seating works in her classroom, and I used a very similar anchor chart when I first introduced flexible seating with my students.

We started the year off with this set-up.

Flexible Seating in a First Grade Classroom

After all of my reading, I stayed late the last day before Christmas break and completely rearranged my classroom. Who does that? I was determined to make it work though and wanted a fresh start in January. My students walked into this after their return from Christmas break.

Flexible Seating in a First Grade Classroom
Flexible Seating in a First Grade Classroom

Since I was teaching a resource room, my students were already used to sharing community supplies. I kept their pencils, crayons, and scissors in blue baskets. What I found so funny is that my students basically just sat in the same spot as where their desk had been previously.

The standing desks were a huge hit and one of the most used spots this school year. I had several students who were ADHD and extremely energetic. These were fabulous for those students, and I noticed that they typically chose them on their own as a working space.

Flexible Seating in a First Grade Classroom

Along the way, I wrote a Donors Choose project for 8 stability balls and was fortunate enough to have it funded pretty quickly.

Flexible Seating in a First Grade ClassroomI also lowered a circle table and pulled out my crate seats. For testing, I just told my students to find a good place for them to work and grab the dividers (manila folders laminated together).

Flexible Seating in a First Grade Classroom

Flexible Seating in a First Grade Classroom

I used this front carpet for any whole group instruction that required modeling with the document camera. My students were already used to using clipboards, so this wasn't a new skill for them. However, I quickly realized that stepping over students as I was going back and forth from my document camera to the board was not a good choice.

Which lead me to buying another rug from Target, and I came up with this set-up. My rule for students was that your body must be on one of the carpets. This way I had an aisle as a walkway for me to go back and forth from the table to my board.

Flexible Seating in a First Grade Classroom

One day, I happened to come across the highly sought after Scoop Rockers by pure chance. I scooped up four of them, and my students were in love! Have you ever seen anything as adorable as this Kindergartener reading?

Flexible Seating in a First Grade Classroom

This picture here is my proudest moment as a special education teacher. I have always struggled to get my students to independently read. I'm not sure what I did differently this year (other than the flexible seating), but I had students reading independently. 

Flexible Seating in a First Grade Classroom

My students knew that a clipboard was always a choice they could pick for seating.

Flexible Seating in a First Grade Classroom

Flexible Seating in a First Grade Classroom

 By the end of the year, I had come up with this configuration. I "think" I've worked out all the kinks and will be starting off the year like this for next year, with a few minor changes (such as that gray cabinet has been taken out).

Flexible Seating in a First Grade Classroom

 After looking back at this year, I feel like giving my students a choice in their seating was absolutely a positive thing. There were only a few times that I had to make a choice for someone and move them. Whenever that happened, I made them come sit at my kidney table until they could show me that they had earned back their right to choose.

How do you feel about flexible seating? Is this something that would work in your classroom?